The COVID-19 pandemic can make it difficult to visit the doctor, and consequently, to obtain prescriptions for medicines.
These limitations in obtaining the drugs lead many to consider taking products that have expired.
But is it safe to take expired drugs? What can happen to you if you do? Here we clear up these doubts and share tips from the experts.
The expiration date is determined by the stability of a sealed medicine in its original container.
However, that date does not mean that the drug may be dangerous after the detailed period.
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It only reports that real-time data or extrapolations from studies indicate that the drug is expected to be stable until that date if stored in the closed container under recommended conditions.
Most medications have a shelf life of 1 to 5 years. Although there are also cases where the expiration date no longer applies once the drug is opened, for example ophthalmic products such as eye drops.
In another HolaDoctor publication, Dr. Alejandro Villar explained that “the expiration date that is printed on the packaging is a legal obligation and works as a kind of” guarantee. ”
Pharmaceutical companies guarantee that the drug will be effective and safe until the expiration date, as long as it is stored properly. “
Villar warned that not all drugs are the same. “Biological drugs that are made from proteins can break down more quickly or even become contaminated. A protein is less stable than a paracetamol molecule, for example. On the other hand, medicines in tablets tend to last longer than those in syrup. “
Due to legal restrictions and liability concerns, manufacturers do not sanction use after expiration, and generally do not comment on the safety or effectiveness of their products beyond the date on the label.
Is it dangerous to consume expired medications?
There are no published reports of human toxicity due to ingestion, injection, or topical application of a drug formulation currently available after its expiration date.
In contrast, the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP), run jointly by the United States Department of Defense and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which tests the stability of pharmaceutical products after their date of expiration, reported that 2,650 of 3005 batches (88%) of 122 different products stored in their original unopened containers were able to extend their shelf life by an average of 66 months after the labeled expiration date.
Yet another report, from the US Department of Health and Human Services, noted that it would be reasonable, if necessary, to use the antiviral products Tamiflu (oseltamivir; 75 mg capsules) and Relenza (zanamivir inhalation powder) for up to 15 and 10 years, respectively, after their date of manufacture, as long as the products have been stored properly.
How to Store Medications
To safely consume medications, storage is essential.
High temperatures and / or humidity could accelerate the degradation of some formulations, therefore, it is advisable to store them in their original container, in a cool and dry place, always protected from the sun. This way we will avoid any alteration.
Experts indicate that the kitchen or bathroom may not be the best places to do this, as they face greater changes in humidity and temperature.
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Thermolabile medications, such as vaccines, insulin, and certain eye drops or antibiotics, among others, should be stored in the refrigerator, between 35 ° F (2 ° C) and 46 ° F (8 ° C).
If the medicine does not need cold, it is not necessary to store it in the refrigerator, as it will not keep better because of it. In addition, you should always keep them out of the reach of children.
Remember– Drug potency varies between drugs, by formulation, batch, preservatives (if any), and storage conditions, especially heat and humidity.
When no suitable alternative is available, expired medications, especially recently expired medications, can be effective.
Sources consulted: US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Health and Human Services, The Medical Letter.